When the Peninsula Community Foundation initiated the framework to achieve Regional Clergy Engagement” in 2002, it was their expectation that it would result in the structural design for a Religion Sector. They understood that religion related institutions were neither mutually engaged nor structurally aligned with the institutions of the community Civic Sectors: Government, Education, Human Services, Business.
They attributed this to generally held assumptions that:
- The history of religion has been one of distinct and conflicting faiths.
- Civic sectors interaction with the clergy and congregations was not functionally able to be aligned.
Based on these assumptions, there had been limited and short term community investment in achieving that mutual engagement or that structural alignment. Most investment in religion based collaboration was ad hoc, with limited and short term results which lacked structural components and systems.
At the same time, there was the understanding of congregations as historically beneficial community partners, rich in constituents and resources. This resulted in the longstanding, yet unsuccessful, efforts to structure models to achieve and sustain comprehensive congregation and civic sectors’ agencies’ partnerships.
The Foundation recognized that the only sector in the community without an organizational entity which engaged the leadership of the core sector institutions was religion. It was their theory that if it was possible to structure “Regional Clergy Engagement,” an entity that engaged all clergy in a region, it would reverse the current circumstance.
- The congregation clergy – the core institutions’ professionals – would expedite the sector structure.
- Based on a Religion Sector defined and articulated structure, religion institutions would be able to structurally align with the Civic Sectors.
- The denominational, demographic and geographic diversity represented in congregations would significantly increase mutual respect community wide – as all clergy of all faiths interacted, it would result in all people of all faiths interacting.
The first step was the compiling of a regional clergy Database, which gave a structured definition to the totality of the constituent base. The second step was Mapping to understand the geographical relationship among the congregations and in relation to civic jurisdictions. The third step was Gatherings:
Clergy and Civic Leaders Local Discussions
Database: Determining that there were 440 clergy in the region and the means for creating a database of their names, locations and contact information, set the specific scope of engagement of all “individual clergy,” not generically “the clergy.”
Gatherings: This project delineated the specific times and places for the gathering points for all clergy to engage with each other and to extend that engagement to the leaders of the civic sectors. These Gathering points were structured to enable clergy to achieve an overarching regional relationships without interfering with groups based on issues collaboratives, city and denomination.
To support the Gathering process and the subsequent partnerships with the institutions of the civic sectors, Trainings in Multi-Faith Awareness for institutions in all sectors, including a Religion Sector Glossary, and Religion Sector Abbreviations, became an essential component and a prerequisite to providing institutions with core capacities and became a primary product of the initiative.
The full county within the region became the only one of 4,000 counties in the nation with a clergy database, mapping and an engagement model. This transformed ad hoc structures into a designed structure and the euphemistic “all clergy” to a quantifiable “all clergy.” The Foundation brought to the religion realm the basic components of inclusion – due process and equal access.
Clergy Reflections on Regional Clergy Engagement
From “Regional Clergy Engagement” came the structural components of “Congregation/Civic Sectors Partnerships” included here.
The Foundation investment in this initiative resulted in the step by step realization of the structure of the Religion Sector.
Rabbi Jay Miller RELIGION SECTOR 3.0
1.0 On the Town Square 2.0 Walls of Separation
3.0 Alignment: Among Congregations – Within Society